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Some Thoughts On Game 5 Of The NLCS

It would be easy for a fan to be disappointed by this. Twice, now, we've seen Tim Lincecum go up against Roy Halladay in what could've and should've been the pitching matchup of the year. And neither time have they delivered upon the promise. In Game 1, both were effective, but neither was dominant. And in Game 5, both were effective, but neither was dominant. Six weeks ago we got a better pitcher's duel from Luke French and Fausto Carmona. The fan wants aces to pitch at the tops of their games every time. When aces don't pitch at the tops of their games, the fan is often let down.

But what stood out to me tonight wasn't that Halladay and (to a lesser extent) Lincecum underachieved, relative to expectations. What stood out to me was how much they were still able to get done despite not having their best stuff. Make no mistake - tremendous pitching was on display tonight. It was just tremendous pitching for purposes not of domination, but survival. Both guys recognized that they weren't at the tippy tops of their games, and both guys battled to do as much as they possibly could.

Tim Lincecum was a bit off, and his third inning was a nightmare, and he struck out seven in seven innings while allowing three runs. Roy Halladay was a bit off, and he hurt his groin early and got to an unusual number of three-ball counts, and he struck out five in six innings while allowing two runs. Those were two effective starts with the lights at their brightest.

The definition of an ace isn't a guy who always goes out there and shuts the opponent down. The definition of an ace is a guy who always goes out there and does the most with what he has, even if he doesn't have much. Tim Lincecum and Roy Halladay didn't quite pitch like Tim Lincecum and Roy Halladay, but they both still pitched like aces. It was interesting to watch them fight it, and it was exciting to watch them succeed.

  • You'll often hear about veteran pitchers who go out and use the first inning to try and figure out what the day's strike zone is going to look like. You don't always notice it. Today, Roy Halladay made it obvious. The first at bat of the game:


    Roy Halladay took the mound and tried to find where the outer edge of the strike zone would be against lefties. He found it, although he probably didn't intend to issue a leadoff walk for the first time all season. It was interesting to watch as Halladay threw Torres zero strikes, but got two strikes.

  • Despite the run scoring and the jam-escaping, my favorite moment of this game came in the bottom of the first, after the Torres walk, and after Freddy Sanchez followed with a base hit. With runners on the corners and nobody out, Halladay went to work against Aubrey Huff and quickly fell behind 2-0.

    That prompted a mound visit from pitching coach Rich Dubee, and the fact that it was happening that early, in that game, to Roy Halladay - I don't know if they were prompted by the scoreboard, and I don't really care, but the AT&T crowd just came alive. It was already alive. But when Dubee came out of the dugout, it erupted. It was a pyroclastic flow of elation, a jökulhlaup of ecstasy. The Giants were doing this, to *that*. The sense was that, just three batters into the game, the Giants had Halladay on the ropes, and that the World Series might only be three hours away.

    It didn't work out that way, of course. But the fans didn't know that. They reacted as appropriately as they could given the knowledge they had, and the knowledge they had at the time was that things were looking very very up.

  • In case you weren't watching, or you were watching and missed it, this was a bunt that Roy Halladay laid down in the third:


    That bunt was called fair. Roy Halladay didn't move out of the box for several seconds, and Pablo Sandoval was able to make a catch at third, roll over, look at the third base umpire, turn, and throw to first base in plenty of time to throw a stunned and jogging Halladay out, but that bunt was called fair.

    I don't really know what to make of this. It's a bad call. Or, at least, it's a wrong call, with the reasonable but frustrating excuse that Buster Posey blocked the umpire's view. But how much of a difference did it make? It served as a sac bunt. Is Halladay a good bunter? This was the first pitch. Would he have been able to get another bunt down?

    It worked out in the Phillies' favor, because they got done what they were trying to do, but the whole thing was weird. The ball was so clearly foul, the call so clearly wrong. And yet, it was a sac bunt, and I have trouble convincing myself that any outcome on any sac bunt is worthy of outrage.

    Maybe a good rule of thumb, when you're an umpire and your view of a short bunt is blocked, would be that, if the batter doesn't move, like at all, then the bunt was probably foul. So call it foul. If it was actually foul, you're right! And if it was actually fair, then the batter gets penalized for not running out a fair ball. It's perfect. I should be elected president of something.

  • Cody Ross hit a run-scoring double off the hands in the third inning to trim the Phillies' lead to 3-2. He then got thrown out with two down trying to tag up from second on a fly ball, and from that point forward he went 0-2 with two strikeouts. Life doesn't feature as many clear watershed moments as you see in the movies, but that play at third would sure make for a convenient one as far as Ross' 2010 playoffs are concerned. Ross is good. Ross is unstoppable! Hey wait turns out he's just kind of okay and he strikes out a lot.

    I don't want that to be the way it ends up, but if that's the way it ends up, I'll get it.

  • With the Giants behind 3-2 at the end of the eighth, the camera cut to a shot of the Giants bullpen, where Ramon Ramirez was standing next to Brian Wilson. What I concluded from that shot was that both Ramirez and Wilson were ready to enter the game. Bruce Bochy opted for Ramirez. What I think is important to remember in a situation like this is that Ramon Ramirez blows. Granted, you don't expect Ramirez to come in and immediately give up a homer, and it looked like Jayson Werth got some help from the wind, but still, if - if - both Ramirez and Wilson were ready to come in, then there's no excusing Bochy's choice. Wilson is very good. Ramirez is Step Up 3D.

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  • Ross Gload stands in with one out and men on the corners

    Lincecum: please get out please get out please get an easy out
    Gload: please hit a fly ball please hit a fly ball please hit a fly ball or a slow grounder or a hit
    Lincecum: :pitch:
    Gload: :hit:
    Huff: :snares scorching line drive:
    Huff: :steps on first base:
    Lincecum: AAH
    Gload: AAH
    Posey: Your sounds are the same but they mean exact opposites!